The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered a trial-within-trial in the case of a former acting Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Haruna Jauro, who was charged with N304.1m fraud.
The development followed Jauro’s objection to the tendering and admissibility of five confessional statements which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claimed he voluntarily made while being interrogated.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on Monday adjourned till February 21, 2017 for commencement of trial-within-trial to test the voluntariness of the confessional statements.
Jauro is standing trial alongside Dr. Dauda Bawa and Thlumbau Enterprises Limited.
The defendants were arraigned on April 12, 2016 on 19 counts.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the resumed proceedings on Monday, the fourth witness for the EFCC, Orji Chukwuma, an investigator with the EFCC, continued his evidence-in-chief.
Chukwuma told the court how his team, during investigation, discovered that Thlumbau Enterprises Limited was owned by Bawa, and how a Zenith Bank account, numbered 1013670068, was opened in the name of the company “purely to warehouse proceeds of crime from NIMASA.”
“There is a report with pictorial diagrams, table and pie charts, showing clearly what the account was for,” the witness said.
For instance, the witness told Justice Olatoregun that following an internal memo in NIMASA dated July 8, 2014, requesting N20m for immediate intelligence gathering activities, N20m was moved from the account of NIMASA’s Committee on Intelligence Gathering into the account of Thlumbau Enterprises Limited.
The witness said rather being used for intelligence gathering purpose, the N20m was “co-mingled with other proceeds of crime from NIMASA,” and used to purchase a duplex in Abuja for Jauro.
The witness further claimed that Jauro had earlier made a refund of N35m to the Federal Government when confronted with the facts.
“He (Jauro) made a refund of N35m; we then informed him that, ‘Sir, apart from this N35m, there are also other funds in that account, which are also proceeds of crime,’ and he came with his lawyer, a northerner, Galadima, and there and then, he made a statement to us,” Chukwuma said.
Two confessional statements of Bawa dated March 18, 2016 and April 1, 2016 were tendered in evidence by the EFCC and marked as exhibits by the court as the defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo, did not raise any objection.
Ojo, however, opposed the tendering of five confessional statements dated October 12, 2015, January 28, 2016, March16, 2016, March 17, 2016 and March 24, 2016 made by Jauro to the EFCC.
“We object the admissibility of all the statements of the first defendant on the grounds of the statements not being given voluntarily and in consequence of inducement by the operatives of the EFCC.
“We urge Your Lordship to conduct a trial-within-trial with regard to the admissibility of the statements of the first defendant,” Ojo said.
Justice Olatoregun consequently adjourned till February 21, 2017 for commencement of trial-within-trial.